Review in two minutes
Here is the MSI MPG Trident A 11TG configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-11700F (octa-core, 16 MB cache, up to 4.9 GHz turbo)
Graphic: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (8GB GDDR6)
R.A.M: 32GB DDR4 (3200MHz)
Storage: 1 x 512GB m.2 SSD, 1 x 1TB SSD
Optical drive: none
Ports: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 5x USB 2.0 Type-A, 4x audio jacks, HDMI/DisplayPort (on-board), 1x HDMI/ 3x DisplayPort (on GPU)
Connectivity: 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.2, Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
Weight: 12.3 pounds (5.58 kg)
Size: 5.4 x 15.6 x 16.1 in (13.7 x 39.6 x 41 cm; W x D x H)
separating. That’s what this is: It’s something that tears our review muscles in two. Because on the one hand, the MSI Trident A 11TG is a perfect little gaming PC, a combination of a highly competent 11th Gen CPU, fast graphics processing, plenty of RAM, a lovely little chassis and (critically) everything that gets done for you. On the other hand, the Trident A’s compact design ideals mean that the end product is at least partially paralyzed. And that’s a shame.
We can trace all nagging problems to this case. While it deftly slices up each of the heat-generating core bits of a desktop PC, it seems to underestimate the heat demands of its processor. It comes with a crappy radiator, so it gets hot enough to throttle with some regularity – all this despite the fact that its fans sound so loud you’d swear the Trident would be ready at any moment.
The compact size – MSI puts it at 10 liters, and it feels small – doesn’t prevent it from being upgradeable, as most components are fully stock. But again we are faced with a compromise. Packing everything into such a limited space means using a compact power supply, and the 450W unit installed here (which is tasked with powering a power-hungry RTX 3060 Ti) has to sit on the very edge of its performance limit. So you can upgrade, but only after you’ve decided on another SFF power plant. Grr.
At least this can get tough in its pre-installed configuration. Our benchmark tests may have been a hair short of what they should be with this combination of kits, but given the limitations of the case, a slight step backwards is forgivable. In-game it feels smooth and shrugs off almost any challenge, barely flinching (okay, loud screams) when running titles at 1440p. It absolutely has it where it counts.
Given that it’s a powerful computing solution in an age when things like this are, if not hard to come by, at least hard to build yourself, the Trident A 11TG is very valuable, especially if you’re buying it for a non- stuck price. You can play hard on it, it’s a platform to build on, and it’s smaller than your average desktop PC. Get a good pair of headphones and some forgiveness for its poorly cooked CPU and you’re in good shape.
price and availability
It’s not hard to find the MSI MPG Trident A 11TG: MSI has supplied it to a wide range of stockists, some non-specialist: in the UK you’ll find it at AO and Box, for example. And it’s not super-expensive, at least in the context of desktop PCs with eligible GPUs in 2022, which retail at £1,599.
Note, however, that the Trident A 11TG reviewed here appears to be a UK-only configuration. MSI’s Trident offerings in the US and Australia are limited to the 10th Gen edition at the time of writing if you want that shell that’s starting to show its age now, and the Trident 3 series which is another case wears – something that would probably greatly change our opinion about it.
Is it expensive? uh, maybe? No? You could probably build something similar for less money if you can source the parts – but in the current market, that’s a big “if”. In the context of 3060 pre-built boxes, it’s a decent price – and far cheaper than the Corsair One, despite the latter offering far higher specs.
Can small form factor design and high-end PC hardware really go together? Uh, yes: the Corsair One, going back to just one example, does a great job, and there’s a huge sector of the enthusiast market that delights in cramming as much performance into as little space as possible.
The M SI MPG Trident A 11TG fits the category, reducing a lot of size on each of its edges compared to most chunky desktop PC cases, although the overall effect is a thinner PC rather than an overly small one. It’s not super light, it’s not /that/ small, and it’s not particularly pretty, at least according to this reviewer, as it has a few unnecessary gamer angles and a hint of RGB that’s neither big enough to be spectacular be yet small enough to be subtle. Basically, it’s a PC designed for a very specific niche. If you’re in dire need of reclaiming a few inches of desk space, this is the solution.
The condensed design of the MSI MPG Trident A 11TG comes with a number of tricky tradeoffs, and we’ll save the most noticeable ones – performance and cooling – for later. This is a horizontally-oriented PC forced into a vertical shell, meaning all ports are also vertically-oriented – including the front I/O prized Type-C connector alongside two USB Type-A ports on the front panel.
The squashed nature of the case doesn’t really detract from the area available for rear I/O, with a generous choice of five USB Type-A ports, a second Type-C, 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, integrated HDMI and DisplayPort and three audio jacks. The vertically oriented RTX 3060 offers three DisplayPort sockets and a single HDMI.
A journey within reveals glimmers of genius. For example, each of the key components gets its own vague section in the case, with the GPU (in this case an RTX 3060) drawing air from the right in the top compartment and the power supply and motherboard in the lower half, the CPU drawing air from the left and that power supply from the right. While there’s a free slot for RAM and room for a 2.5-inch SSD, that’s about it – and there’s basically no extra room to work with.
On the positive side, however, it is technically possible to upgrade the MSI MPG Trident A 11TG and you don’t always have to search the market for special components. A commercially available CPU upgrade or a sufficiently short graphics card is required. Lots of smaller desktops are more locked down, so this is a snag in terms of longevity – although the power supply only puts out 450W, you’ll probably need to find a compact enough boosted powerhouse before you even consider bumping into one of the main components.
At this point, a note on an aspect that didn’t affect the Trident’s rating, but really deserves a mention: Our test device absolutely stunk out of the box. It smelled strongly of – and we’ll admit that’s not a particularly useful comparison – Sticky Toffee Pudding’s vape juice, which was banned from this reviewer’s home as soon as his wife caught a whiff of its overpowering stench. Think burnt sugar. It might not affect every unit, and it started dissipating fast enough, but it’s worth noting.
Here’s how the MSI MPG Trident A 11TG performed in our series of benchmark tests:
3DMark: Night Attack: 49,463; Fire Strike: 20,870; time spy: 10,232
Cinebench R20 multi-core: 3319 points
GeekBench 5: 1528 (single processor); 6257 (multi-core)
PCMark 10 (home test): 6658 points
Total War: Three Kingdoms (1080p, Ultra): 87.0 fps; (1080p, Low): 232.8 fps
Metro Exodus (1080p, Ultra): 76.09 fps; (1080p, Low): 148.26 fps
The MSI Trident A 11TG is a nifty little performer. That’s about all you really need to know. It’s good. The 3060 Ti works perfectly with graphics, the 11th Gen Core i7 CPU is powerful enough to offer a significant pressure point to everything it needs, there is more than enough RAM and maybe not quite enough storage. It works well. But it’s really not quiet about it.
The thing howls loudly. Even when idling, fan noise is very noticeable, likely due to the limited airflow potential in its compact chassis. When it works hard, it gets a lot louder; not so loud that it couldn’t be a living room PC, but you’ll notice if you listen to it. Somehow even worse is the middle ground, which hits a kind of harmonic resonance that makes the fan output (according to a guitar tuner app) a perfect E flat major note.
The fans are a problem in other respects too: while the GPU gets a standard cover that can keep it more than frosty, the CPU is only offered the most basic standard cooler, which isn’t quite as good with heavy loads. It proved to be a definite bottleneck in our benchmark tests, hitting the thermal throttling point particularly on tests that favor a single core, and at times hitting almost 65 degrees Celsius while idling. And conversely, there is a lack of fans: there is no airflow in the case beyond the fans, which are attached directly to the components, and therefore no real exhaust. The heat just floats up.
When reviewing anything, it’s difficult not to harp on the negatives, so let’s swing to the positives. It’s not that the MSI Trident A 11TG, for example, can’t push games well. It really can: gaming at 1080p was smooth, and 1440p was perfectly decent with everything we tried. It’s a pleasure to use.
Its suite of communication extras, from Wi-Fi 6E to 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, is fast enough that it won’t feel slow over the life of this device unless you decide to use it as a hardcore file server, what you really shouldn’t. The included storage is reasonable and fast, with just enough present that it doesn’t feel stingy; The single stick of 32GB of RAM is generous, leaving a slot open for expansion, although you miss out on the potential benefit of running dual-channel memory.
And hey, it’s a full-featured desktop PC at a time when building your own might not be an option, or something you actually want to do. If a little noise isn’t an issue – or if you’re willing to find the right low-profile components to effectively cool this without the cater whine – then the performance here might be even better than you might expect from the Pushing the limits of a small form factor PC.